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Riding the Festive 500 in one big fat ride from Paris (FR) to Haarlem (NL) - #inonego

Somewhere during Festive 500 2012 my tortured mind came up with the idea to simply do Festive 500 in one ride and “get it over with”. A year later that idea hasn’t left my head. So that’s where this brilliant (and by brilliant, i mean stupid) idea to ride Festive 500 in one ‘go’ came from. And to make this ‘easier’ I figured out that I’d start somewhere that is about 500 km from home and ride back. Paris was as random as any other ‘500km away from home’ location could have been. Only later the route turned out to coincide with the prevailing wind.

This is our story.

AWOL setup during our Trans Holland East West. Maybe the Netherlands is small and flat, we still got to ride 300km of challenging terrain, mostly offroad. Did the whole crossing in one go.

It is a test AWOL deluxe without racks / fenders, but with Exposure hub dynamo and revo light, a small Deuter framebag and a Revelate Pike seat bag.

Again thanks for the nice picture, @Bas Rotgans

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Riding the Festive 500 in one big fat ride from Paris (FR) to Haarlem (NL)

Watch on witindustries.tumblr.com

So there is this event called Festive500, where the challenge is to ride 500 km’s between the 24th and 31st of December (more info: http://bit.ly/1i9EuB4). 

There was a bunch of 4 riders from The Netherlands who decided to do it in one go. Yes, one ride of 500 km’s. In the evening of the 23rd, they took the train to Paris, to ride back from there to Rotterdam, starting at midnight.

Here’s their report.

Riders: 

Bas Rotgans - www.firsttracks.nl
Paul Sneeboer - www.blueonbike.nl
Thomas Ettema - enduranceadventure.tumblr.com
Wolf de wilde

Filmed&edited and directed by Michel Bosch - www.michelbosch.nl
Stills photography by Michiel Rotgans - www.rotgans.com
Title Design by Koen Knevel - www.ok200.nl

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Rapha’s Festive 500 is a yearly challenge to maintain your fitness over the Christmas period by riding 500km between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.  Whilst this obviously has many health benefits, it can be arduous task, especially as you’ll be required to cycle on average over 70km a day.  Couple this with the fact you may well cut in to time with your family, eating a large bird or finding your way to the bottom of a good bottle.

So what if, instead of trying to average it out, you just did it in one day?  Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

Obviously not, but this didn’t stop four nutters giving it a go anyway.  Setting off from Paris they aim to reach Haarlem in the Netherlands in one epic ride.  Not only having to contend with the gruelling kilometres they also managed to pick a day when the rain would not let up.  Did they make it to the end?  Watch the video and see.

My Rapha Festive 500 2013

 The plan

Well, the plan was to do something challenging at the end of the year and ride the Rapha Festive 500 in one ride, yup 500km in one big ass ride. This big ass ride was going to happen without any assistance, it was going to be a long dark 24+ hour adventure. There was no doubt on the route, we were going to take a one way train to Paris, find the eiffeltower, take a picture, start the gps and ride home to Haarlem. Fortunately the wind was blowing the right direction, unfortunately the weather prediction also mentioned a bit of rain…

The ride

After a very nervous Monday, packing stuff, locking myself out of my house, missing trains and cursing a lot I finally arrived at Gare du Nord in Paris around 11 o’clock. Soon enough we all found each other at a nice restaurant. We is a small group of 4 riders, Wolf, Bas, Paul and myself.

Soon enough we found the Eiffel tower and the film / photography guys, Michiel and Michel. They were not going to help us on the ride, their task was to document anything that would happen to us. Their stuff will be out soon enough!

After a few group pictures, a bit of nervous chatting and some GPS synchronizing we were off. Soon enough we discovered that riding on a fixed GPS track is very easy, probably the only proper way to take on challenges like this. After about an hour we rode out of the Banlieu and into the French countryside, the first 3 hours of the trip were easy and wonderfull. A great experience to ride unknown terrain in the middle of the night. At 4 o’clock it started to rain for a little bit, from there on it would not stop anymore. A few hours later we found a bakery and took our first stop, 15 minutes of eating croissants. There was no coffee at the bakery and it slowly started to become less dark, so soon enough we were on the bikes again. Finding a place to get some well deserved caffeine was our next big goal, this would take a few hours.

When we finally found a bar that was actually open it was already a few hours into the day, the place was a horrible northern French betting office serving morning beers, but the coffee tasted wonderfull! This coffee break was also the first opportunity to change out some wet clothing. All the kit we had was carried on the bikes, my gear was pretty minimal. But a few warm and dry socks can definitely help you get up again.

The terrain changed a bit and after 250km France changed into Belgium without any signs. Somewhere around the border my rear brake stopped functioning (bad weather, dirty roads and Avid BB7 disc brakes are not the best friends). At the same time my body started to ask for real food, being fed up with gels and energy bars after 11 hours of cycling.

On our way to Brussels we found a decent looking Italian restaurant, although the door was open, the kitchen was closed. Next stop was a typical Belgian bar not having anything to eat apart from some chips and chocolate bars. Still we stopped for some time, fixing a flat tire indoors with a hot choco is pretty luxurious when you are 300km into a ride.

Entering the suburbs of Brussels my front brake started to fade, at this time my rear brake was completely useless, the brakepads were grinded away completely. Somewhere in Downtown Brussels we took a stop at a small Italian restaurant, the last 10km the rain changed into the biggest outdoor shower ever, my bike was brakeless and it started to get dark slowly. Wolf being completely soaked, cold to the bone, he could not stop shaking. Bas and Paul were looking allright. During our pizza and warm tea we came to the conclusion that it would be irresponsible and dangerous for both Wolf and myself to continue. It was pretty devastating to make this decision but after our dinner we decided to stop the GPS and go look for the train station. From Brussels central station it took us another 3 hours to return to Haarlem by train. How long will it take Paul and Bas and will they reach our hometown on their bikes? This was the only thought I had during our train ride home.

Final thoughts

I went to bed after a 14 hour, 342km ride in terrible wet winter conditions. I had been awake for 42 hours in a row. The next morning, christmas day, I woke up around 10 feeling fine. No sore ass, no back pain and not even stiff upper legs. This feeling made it even worse that I had to stop the ride because of a mechanical issue, because I forgot to bring some spare brakepads.

But on the other hand I was pretty proud of the accomplishment we made as a team, and hoping the other guys would finish the Festive500 in one go made it bearable. My determination to finish the Festive 500 was higher than ever! This long ride has thought me that you can still be proud of something, even if it did not go the way you planned it. Cycling for more than a few hours can be very tough, but even more rewarding in the end. Traveling to new places with your bike, riding with people you hardly know, and doing stuff you are scared off. There are the most motivational and inspirational events imaginable.

Thanks Wolf, Bas, Paul, Michiel and Michel (in no particular order). http://app.strava.com/activities/101771242/overview

What's the dresscode for 500 kilometers on a bike?

There’s this great quote from whoever or wherever that “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes”. While that may have a lot of tough panache and testosterone fueled truth to it, I’d like to believe it’s all a bit more subtle than that.

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While we’re waiting for the video of our Paris to Haarlem ride to get ready, here’s an extensive update on what I wore on our Festive 500 ride. With the 16-17 hours we spent riding in all sorts of rain, - in hindsight - I’m pretty glad to say that I made the right choices with regards to my clothing. Careful observers will see that there is not a single piece of Rapha gear in there. I’m sorry, Mr. Rapha. I love what you guys do, just haven’t gotten around to purchasing anything yet. I most probably will in the near future, I think I’ve finally put in my roadie-miles to deserve some…

Changing schedule:

For starters, this was my changing-schedule (Which sounds way more elaborate of a plan than it really was), expecting to have to deal with approximately 24 hours of ‘being out there’, I brought:

- 3 sets of basics/underwear (I was wearing the first set when we got on the train), meaning longsleeve and shortsleeve merino t-shirt, socks, gloves, neck collar and merino cap to be worn under my helmet. Which means that I could change into a fresh set every 8 hours or so. Any time I would be comfortable longer would be OK, and I’d carry on.

- one extra pair of cycling pants, so I could switch after 12 hours.

-  a rain jacket and a pair of rain pants (more on those later) that I would whip out when the weather dictated. Turns out I’d spend more than 80% of our ride in them.

Merino

You’ll see that I use/wear a lot of merino. After having used virtually every other material known to thermal underwear, I think I have finally found myself a perfect textile. I love the way it feels, it wicks moisture away from the skin amazingly and it will not stink up. Even if you decide to rather re-use one from the laundry basket that was on it’s way to the washing machine. Yes, merino costs a little more, but since I still have some thermal underwear pieces from 15 (!) years ago, I’m pretty confident that these will turn out to be good investments (my oldest merino pieces are already going strong after 5-6 years, with lots of life in them). Basically, thermal underwear doesn’t wear down like outerwear does: invest in some good stuff!

Head/neck

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I was wearing a BBB Cycling Icarus helmet for no other reason than that it was given to me a month or two prior and it fits my head well. AS far as I can tell it’s a comfortable helmet, it works for the shape of my head and has enough of a sizing range that I could squeeze under my indispensable Arc’teryx Rho LTW beanie.

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My head has two issues, it’s practically bold and I sweat a lot from it. So I need to take care of two quiet contradictory issues: getting the sweat way from my head and keep cold wind of my scalp. The Ar’cteryx beanie is the perfect item for this. I own a bunch of them, wear them in the winter for tourskiing too. They make my life outside truely comfortable.

For cycling in this kind of weather I believe collars are the other must-have item. They ‘plug up’ any heat loss through a wider jacket collar, keep your neck warm and can be pulled up over your mouth or chin when the wind from the front is getting too cold. I had one from Howies, one from Buff and one unmarked one. I like the one from Howies the best, but they don’t seem to make it anymore, but I see that for instance Smartwool do some good looking ones.

Body

I was using three sets of merino underwear from Arc’teryx. A ‘set’ consisted of a longsleeve and shortsleeve T-shirt worn over each other. I started wearing this personally devised two-layer system while skiing and snowboarding a few years back and have never looked back. Usually I only layer them up with a thin in-between fleece. Unfortunately, Arc’teryx has stopped making their merino underwear pieces (I have no idea why, they were great) and I’m still looking for a good substitution. Anyone have any good ideas?

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Over the thermals, for pretty much the entire ride I wore an Arc’teryx Trino jacket. Yes, I own a lot of Arc’teryx stuff. I have the very fortunate pleasure of having access to a Pro Order account and throughly believe that their outdoorwear is some of the very best available in the world. The Trino, coming in as a more high-speed oriented piece with a WindStopper front and fleece backside is very stretchy, comfortable and a delight to wear. there are two big cycling-jersey styled pocket on the back for storing whatever.

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As cycling pants I had two winter pants that I ‘happened’ to have. One is an AGU Progresso that I got for beachracing on a cold weekend back in Octobre and the other one is a Vaude that was already a few years old. The Vaude was the most weatherproof of the two, so I decided to save that one for last. Use the wind and waterproofness (obviously it’s not really waterproof) when I would need it most.

Contact points: hand/feet

I have always been a fan of Specialized gloves and shoes since I got into cycling. And despite occasionally buying and using other stuff. It’s when I get some shoes or gloves from the big S, that I truely regret spending money on anything else. I had three pairs of gloves: RadiantsElement 1.5s and Deflects. I can’t exactly remember which glove I wore at what point during the ride, but most of the time they performed very well. I could have done with a bit better waterproofness, but in that weather anything could have done with a bit better waterproofness.

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I only had two smallish gripes: pulling my wet hands from the Radiants would pull the liner (and reverse it) from the outer glove. Trying to press them - and every separate finger - back in, being cold, tired and miserable after 23 hours on the bike, was something I could have done without. On the Radiants, especially the cuffs, Specialized uses neoprene. A material used in wetsuits for surfing. Wetsuits have come so incredibly far over the last ten years in warmth, flexibility and comfort, that it always pains me to see absolutely crap quality neoprene used in other industries. The Radiants could be easily 3 times more quick to get on and off if they’ld use an actual high-quality neoprene on the cuffs. It would make a great glove even better.

For shoes I was wearing an older model Specialized Defrosters with a GripGrab overshoe. I bought the overshoe on my way to the station after realising I had forgotten a pair I had lying at home. Within an hour after it started raining water started seeping into my shoes and there was nothing I could do about it. I’d swap socks every 8 hours or so, other than that I had just given over to the idea that my feet would be wet, a little bit cold (uncomfortable, but manageable). When I got home I found the overshoes to be wrecked (once again…). Really, we can put men on the moon, but not come up with an overshoe that doesn’t get f#cked up in a few hours of riding? There is a reason why I normally don’t wear these things, and this is it.

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Two highlights in this department: Smartwool socks and Superfeet insoles. Due to a connection with the Dutch distributor, over the years I have been putting Superfeet insoles in more and more of my footwear. It started with ski and snowboard boots, flowed over into my daily footwear and my cycling shoes were the last to follow. I wouldn’t want to change them for any money in the world anymore and I’d like to advise them to anyone. For me they’ve prevented, cold feet, foot cramps, better posture in my lower body, less fatigue.

All in all pretty bold claims, but that’s exactly what they’ve done for me. Get yourself to a shop that knows it’s way around these things and get yourself fitted (you need a heel-cup size that fits your specific heel, but after that you should be sorted), then gladly apply to all of your footwear. For my cycling shoes I use the Black version due to it’s low volume/low profile (cycling shoes don’t have a lot of room in them).

Read all of the above on merino, apply that to socks and - as far as I’m concerned - you end up at Smartwool. Best socks in the business. I had four pairs with me. Three for the ‘regular’ outfit-refreshers and one extra pair for emergencies.

Rain: wetwetwet isn’t just a nineties band

My solution was pretty simple, but it worked exceptionally well in the ghastly weather that decided to play it’s little game with us. Now, I don’t mean to bad-mouth any other cyclists, but coming from an outdoorsy/winter background, I have never understood the so-called rain jackets that a lot of cyclists are using. I my opinion they are glorified wind jackets, suitable for keeping wind of off your body for a few hours and maybe giving you an extra half hour when it starts raining. But they are not waterproof jackets for in the rain. Which is what I think a rain jacket should be…

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Knowing I’d be out there for around 24 hours (which turned out to be around 30), I decided to bring an actual waterproof jacket, an Arc’teryx Alpha SL Pullover. It’s a parka-style jacket in that you need to pull it over your head, but the lack of a large front zipper will prevent any leakage on the front of your torso. One of the under-arm ventilation zips runs all the way down to the hem, giving you easy-of-entry when putting the jacket on. The Gore-Tex PacLite membrane is very close to being as waterproof as ‘real’ Gore-Tex, but it packs a lot smaller and is much lighter. Yes, it’s an expensive jacket for something so small and light. But it’s exceptionally well made and mine has lasted me through a lot of rugged adventures for the last four years. It’s has just recently started to show the first signs of wear and tear and I’m guessing I need to replace it in the foreseeable future. But it has been a great jacket and investment. The only weird property is that the large pouch-like pocket on your chest seems to suck in air an blow up a bit leaving you with and awkward half-pressurised balloon on your chest every now and then.

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For pants I used a pair of Vaude’s Spray 3/4 pants. As their name implies their length stretches to just under the knee (with the velcro tabs you can also fix them above the knee, if you like that better). I don’t care about my calves getting wet when the weather turns to crap. They will however keep my backside dry, warm and comfortable. The best thing: they pack so small that I always carry these in my backpack or bikebag when I’m on long rides. In short: I love these things and will not be looking for anything else in the next few years.

Especially the rain pieces made my life easier on the day that I was trying as hard as possible to make my life hard.

Powerslave, registrating and navigating

I’ve been so busy getting everything organized, that I’m running behind on updating. I’ve been getting a bunch of questions about how we’ll be recording a ride like that to Strava.

After putting a lot of thought into this, we’ve come to the conclusion that you can’t even begin to consider registration without considering electric power. So let me fill you in a bit on the choices we have made.

Registration

I’ll be using the Strava app on my iPhone to log the ride. Unfortunately I have no idea if the app/phone combo is capable of registering something of that size. To prevent arriving in Haarlem to have the app crash on us I have two GPS’s (?) as a back-up for registering the ride. One is a Garmin Edge 800 that I borrowed from a friend, the other is my Suunto Ambit watch. The Garmin will be able to directly upload the activity into Strava, The Suunto will require some exporting of GPX files, but will most likely work too.

Since we’re riding with four guys together Strava automatically puzzles together that we are on the same ride. So all in all we’d only need to get one good clean upload.

Another idea would be to finish the ride, for instance somewhere half-way, upload the file and restart the ride (and possibly piece them together later). But in all honesty the chance that I don’t have it down as ONE ride makes me foolish/proud enough to try and upload it as one ride.

For now I’ve decided on running the Suunto as a registration-only GPS, use the Garmin as a navigation device and try to run Strava on my iPhone from beginning to end. Coupled to my iPhone I have the amazing (and I don’t use that word lightly) bluetooth-enabled RFLKT screen and heart strap from Wahoo Fitness. I started using them last spring and have nothing but good words for how they work. I’ve had to upgrade my iPhone to a newer model (only 4s and newer support the Bluetooth Lite standard that Wahoo uses for these accessories), but the phone was due for a replacement anyway and it all works so seamlessly and trouble-free that I haven’t looked back once (I do however, have a bunch of ANT+ peripherals at home collecting dust now).

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Power

The battery on the phone (or either GPS unit for that matter) will most definitely not be able to keep running for that time period. On the 200km ride two weeks ago I used a battery pack from a BBB Cycling Scope headlight, very unimaginitively called the BLS-96. It charges through it’s proprietary charger, but delivers a USB output that should be able to charge your iPhone 2-3 times. Bringing two of those. For one of my buddies I’m bringing a Philips batterypack that does something similar. The unit is a little larger than the BLS-96 one and has a much larger charger.

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With some help from the people at Supernova, I have bought a Infinity S  dynamo hub that will not only charge the E3 PRO 2 headlight, but also a nifty little contraption called The Plug, which is basically a stemcap that has a USB output. On a testride two days ago I found out (which I already half-n-half expected) that if you run the headlight The Plug only receives enough power at higher (above 32km-ish) speeds. With the light switched off it should easily provide enough power to charge a phone or GPS. The problem is: we only have about 8,5 hours off daytime. So actually very little time not to run the headlight and completely dedicate powersupply to charging electronic toys.

The hub was mated to a Ryde rim (a model that seems to be out of production right now) and laced by the wheel-crazies at Wheel-Tec. I still have to weigh it, since it was very light despite the slightly heavier-than-normal hub. The rim is crazy light (maybe a little too…) but we’ll see. I lvoe it what happens when you combine the ideas of a bike nerd, light/hub nerds, rim nerds and a wheel-building nerd.

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Navigation

We’ll run two gpx tracks that Thomas has put together from stuff that he’s managed to beg, steal and borrow together. One that runs from Paris to Brussels and one that runs from Brussels to Haarlem. I have it running in the Garmin Edge 800, Thomas has it running on a new Sigma device. So it should be an interesting comparison how it all works…

I’ll be grabbing a train to Paris in a few hours. Right now, I can hardly sip any coffee from the nerves. This is going to be soooo good!

Givin' us a whole lot of lovin'....

Wow, that’s impressive. Three of the blogs/websites in (road) cycling that rule (IMnotsoHO) have posted our story on riding the #festive500 #inonego.

Prolly is not Probably:
http://prollyisnotprobably.com/2014/01/the-festive-500-in-one-ride-paris-fr-to-haarlem-nl/

Velominati, keepers of the cog:
http://www.velominati.com/guest-article/guest-article-rule-9-festivus/

And the stunning Australian site Cyclingtips.com.au:
http://cyclingtips.com.au/2014/01/riding-the-festive-500-in-one-go/

Thanks for your support! And humbling to see that we could inspire people with our insanity…

Watch on enduranceadventure.tumblr.com

Small documentary about our Festive 500 in one go ride / try.

Two men have taken the wise decision that enough is enough. @blueonbike and I are going to seehow far we can get. 345 kilometer is in the bag so far. 220 to go. #festive500 #inonego #gidyup (bij Bruxelas - Bélgica)

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